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Live Life Fully: Sweating the small stuff?

By Linda Arnold

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In this season of Thanksgiving (or "Thanksliving," as I like to call it), we're hearing more reasons to be grateful.

And then it happens. We make a shift. Even if it's just for a split second, we turn our focus from whatever is consuming our mental energy to the heartwarming example.

I don't know about you, but I find myself wanting more of these moments. I call them "cocklewarmers" because they warm the cockles of my soul. And then I silently chide myself for having let some minor challenge consume my earlier thinking.

This just happened to me. Right before I sat down to write, I was allowing myself to dwell too much on a business issue. And then I witnessed a cocklewarmer that totally shifted my perspective.

I saw a TV segment about a wounded warrior band that is using music to heal its wounds on all levels -- physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Suddenly, my business issue paled in comparison.

"I feel more whole than I ever have," said one triple amputee about the lessons he's learned. The former guitar player who lost both legs and one arm in Afghanistan can no longer play the guitar. With a prosthetic arm, though, he can play the drums. So music continues to be a major part of his life.

The wounded veterans explain the music is so healing because it integrates their brains with their bodies to provide healing. Helpful byproducts include a sense of community and purpose. A former leader of the band Pink Floyd is part of the effort, and the group recently performed as part of a tribute at the Kennedy Center.

When I heard about all the broken dreams of these band members -- and the ways they've reinvented themselves -- I felt so humbled. It brought back a longstanding question I've employed when interviewing authors and speakers throughout my career: "Why does it take a life-threatening illness or accident for us to appreciate life as we go along?"

This band of brothers certainly illustrates that point. As I sit here at the computer, I'm witnessing the choreography of nature outside my patio doors. The sun is streaming in against a backdrop of blue sky.

A strong wind is blowing the last of the multicolored leaves that are still on the trees. And my husband, John, and our dog, Chloe, are working outside in an effort to round them up. Well, Chloe is just happy to be out there! At the moment they're engaged in a tussle with the ivy that has wrapped around some of the fallen leaves.

I realize this nature symphony is occurring all the time, yet I rarely stop to notice it in slow motion. Sure, I listen to the weather reports and plan for appropriate clothing and travel arrangements -- I'm pretty good at managing things around the weather. But what about the weather itself?

OK, I do give a nod to the first snowflakes of the season by attempting to catch them on my tongue. No matter where I am. So, that's a start.

And I consider myself a thoughtful person. Still, I want to stay in those heartspace moments a little longer -- and guard against ruminating over the minor things.

The trick is to extend the heartspace so it provides the background tapestry. And then I can flip the switch and regain perspective. My niece, Caity, has a term for this: PIP. Put Into Perspective. We often remind each other to "PIP it."

Years ago I learned the two most important rules of life. Rule No. 1: Don't sweat the small stuff. Rule No. 2: It's almost all small stuff.

So, now seems like a good time to recommit to those principles. I was tempted to say this would be a good credo for the coming year. And then I thought, why wait?

That's the thing with me. I love new beginnings, and I frequently look forward to ushering them into my life as a package. My husband observes that I like to do all the research and get all the accessories before beginning the implementation. And his point is?

This is different though. After all, it's called the present. Why wait until some future time to incorporate the awareness?

In case you're wondering about the reference to Thanksliving at the beginning of the column, this term was coined four years ago in our family. My mother suffered a heart attack on Nov. 4 and made her transition on Nov. 20. Our family held vigil for the entire month of November.

During that time of extreme sadness and the grief that followed, we also recalled stories that led us to celebrate her life. This was all against a backdrop of the Thanksgiving season, so we tweaked it a bit to Thanksliving. And the name has stuck.

My wish for all of you is to live a life of thanksliving -- not just in the month of November, but all year 'round. And to acknowledge -- or take the necessary steps -- to know that your life is more whole than it's ever been.

Even if you have all four limbs.

Linda Arnold, M.A., MBA, is a certified wellness instructor, counselor and chairwoman/CEO of The Arnold Agency, a marketing communications firm with offices in West Virginia, Montana and Washington, D.C. Reader comments are welcome and may be directed to Linda Arnold, The Arnold Agency, 117 Summers St., Charleston, WV 25301 or emailed to livelifefully@arnoldagency.com.


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